Remarks at the Millennium Development Goals High-Level Meeting

By:  John Kerry
Date: Sept. 25, 2013
Location: New York, NY

Thank you very much (inaudible), Secretary General, and (inaudible) delegates, thank you for hosting this most important (inaudible). Thank you for the leadership and the commitment to universal values that we are trying to act on as we contemplate the future.

When nearly 200 countries came together in 2000 with the goal of relieving poverty, hunger, disease, and environmental degradation that disproportionately afflicts the planet's most vulnerable people, we set a deadline to address these global challenges by 2015. At the time, 2015 felt like the distant future. But today, we have fewer than 830 days left on the clock, and everyone here, I think, knows we have to go further and we have to go faster in order to fulfill the promise of an inclusive future that leaves no one behind. So we need to finish strong and then we need to keep building in order to get the job done.

Even as we have cut in half the number who live on about a dollar a day, we know that that half is not clearly enough. So we have to decide, all of us together, to do what this institution was founded to do -- to do more. As President Obama said in his State of the Union address this year and as Secretary General Ban said so eloquently yesterday, we have the historic opportunity to rid the world of extreme poverty in the next two decades. We can put all of our countries on the path to more sustained prosperity.

How do we do that? Well, frankly, experience teaches us exactly what works and it teaches us what doesn't work. We know that creating true opportunity for every member of society without discrimination, investing in health and education, creating the conditions for broad-based economic growth, and strengthening the core institutions of democratic and accountable governance and also getting energy that works for everybody. (Laughter and applause.) (Inaudible) a serious documentation indeed. (Laughter.)

Today, thanks to our efforts, there are far fewer children who are going to sleep hungry than there were before the Millennium Development Goals were set. But every one of us knows that's not enough. I think one of the frustrations for all of us is this confrontation with a reality that we see every day, against hurdles that we run up against, and the difficulties of actually moving forward. There are still about 870 million undernourished people around the world, more than 100 times the population of this city of New York. So we have to decide to do more. Through programs like Feed the Future and the New Alliance for Food Security, we can actually connect farmers with better technology and with more markets to bring more meals to more tables. We can save 12 million people from poverty and 1 million children from stunting.

Thanks to programs close to my heart that I began working on in the United States Senate like PEPFAR and the Global Fund, new HIV infections have declined by a third over the last decade. And as of this year, we have saved more than a million babies from becoming infected by HIV. These are remarkable achievements. But today, more people than ever are still living with this terrible disease. Fighting global AIDS is a shared responsibility, so together we must decide to do more. All partners should support the upcoming replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. And that way, we can promise and deliver on an AIDS-free generation. It is within our reach right now.

All of us are also aware that violent conflict makes development more difficult, and that conflict-afflicted parts of the world remain the furthest behind on achieving the Millennium Goals. So if we're going to open opportunity to everyone, we need to secure peace where it is needed most, and even where doing that is the hardest.

Lastly, our efforts to improve people's lives around the world means little if we let the planet itself fall into disrepair. That is why we must strive for a development agenda that recognizes that fighting poverty, combating discrimination, and safeguarding our environment are absolutely linked together, and are not separate endeavors. Protecting people from poverty, hunger, and disease, and protecting our planet from the threats that make all of those menaces even worse -- dirty water, dangerous air, disappearing resources -- these are challenges to all of us, and they are combined with the challenge of country after country in which populations are 60 percent under 30, 20 -- 50 percent under the age of 21, 40 percent under the age of 18. This is our challenge, and these priorities have to go hand in hand.

So as we charge down the homestretch of the Millennium Development Goals, we are already thinking about what comes next. And our post-2015 development agenda will determine how ready the global community is going to be for the challenges ahead. Everything that we try to do here, and in all of our multilateral efforts, and in each of our countries independently is linked to these goals and to what we can decide in this effort. And I urge all of us, as President Obama does, to decide the right things. Thank you. (Applause.)